Men survive night outdoors

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After getting stuck repeatedly in deep powder and running out of gas, a group of snowmobilers spent Tuesday night in a snowstorm on Buffalo Pass.

The three Steamboat Springs men were found, cold but in good condition, by Routt County Search and Rescue crews Wednesday morning, Search and Rescue member Tim O'Brien said.

The three were snowmobiling Tuesday afternoon in deep early season powder, which O'Brien estimated to be 2 to 3 feet deep on the road and 5 or more feet off-trail. They got stuck and ran out of gas near Fish Creek Reservoir. The reservoir is more than 10 miles from the Dry Lake Campground parking lot on Routt County Road 38, O'Brien said.

The men had a cell phone and one reportedly called a girlfriend, who then reported the situation to authorities about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, O'Brien said. Because the men were reported in good condition, and because of heavy snow Tuesday night, rescuers decided to wait until Wednesday morning to launch the search, he said.

Search and Rescue crews assembled at Dry Lake Camp-ground at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, using a snowcat and snowmachines to reach the stranded men.

About 9 a.m., rescuers found one of the snowmobilers, Dan Schaffer, near Rocky Flats, roughly halfway between the Dry Lake parking lot and Summit Lake. Schaffer had begun walking out while his companions, Jonathan Coles and John Tinsman, stayed with the snowmobiles, O'Brien said.

Coles and Tinsman were found and brought back to the parking lot by 10:30 a.m.

"They were able to start a little fire (Tuesday) night and they seemed to be in pretty good condition, but they mentioned a few times that they wished they had snowshoes and some other equipment," O'Brien said.

All backcountry users should remember to pack snow shovels, food, warm clothing and matches, and always be prepared to spend the night in the wilderness in case something goes wrong, he said.

One snowmobile hit a rock during the search, injuring a rescue crewmember, O'Brien said.

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